Message Boards Message Boards

Concentration

How do you even know you're progressing when you just start out?

Toggle
I've recently come back to meditation after it 'got rid' of my obsessive-compulsive tendencies,where I began to become lazy and skip it, with a new purer motivation.

I'm following Culadasa's 'The Mind Illuminated' and after my period of laziness I've basically been set back to stage 2. I've been building my routine back up but I can barely do anything. I feel like I'm making zero progress in every single session. Obviously, I shouldn't compare myself to others but it would be nice to know if there is a plateau at the start of the path, where there is a feeling that you're not getting anywhere.

Also, as a sidenote, Does having your eyes open/closed matter at all?

I also deal with a lot of feelings around a lack of perceived progress.  Still sitting anyways...

Eyes closed is fine unless you have a hard time staying awake.  Opening them is one antidote for dullness, but mine get dry.

I did Culadasa way for few sessions then switched to anapanasati exactly as described in the sutta. It has been great for me.

I breath mindfully without focus on the nose or abdomen. No focus just mindfully aware of breathing for the entire breath staying with the breathe.

After few minutes I begin breathing mindfully with sensitivity to my body. When I inhale I feel the entire body. When I exhale I relax the whole body with it, like you do in yoga nidra.

I intentionally choose mindful breathing and stay aware of whatever experience I can experience.

This kicks the mind into gamma brain which leads into insight.

Concentration meditation leads into self hypnosis.

Relaxed awareness leads into tranquil mind which is concentrated mind, but concentration meditation doesn't lead into concentrated mind.

All been verified by science.

RE: How do you even know you're progressing when you just start out?
Answer
2/25/17 12:27 AM as a reply to Simon Liu.
Www.firekasina.org

RE: How do you even know you're progressing when you just start out?
Answer
2/25/17 2:53 AM as a reply to Simon Liu.
Simon Liu:

I breath mindfully without focus on the nose or abdomen. No focus just mindfully aware of breathing for the entire breath staying with the breathe.

After few minutes I begin breathing mindfully with sensitivity to my body. When I inhale I feel the entire body. When I exhale I relax the whole body with it, like you do in yoga nidra.

I intentionally choose mindful breathing and stay aware of whatever experience I can experience.

This kicks the mind into gamma brain which leads into insight.


How do you know? Are you taking an EEG while you meditate?

Deepankar:
I feel like I'm making zero progress in every single session. Obviously, I shouldn't compare myself to others but it would be nice to know if there is a plateau at the start of the path, where there is a feeling that you're not getting anywhere.

Meditation is a much different practice than anything that's conscious or intellectual. It works very subconsciously, outside of really being able to percieve the changes that are happening --- until the changes become big enough and then it's obvious. 

The single biggest problem is not maintaining a consistent practice. Change will occur if practice is consistent.

So how do you keep yourself motivated? You make time-in-practice itself the goal and feel good about just doing the practice. One great way to stay motivated is to get a calendar, find a day 45 days from now and circle it. And then sit today. When you are done, but a big "X" through today's date ---- and don't break the chain of X's. Don't worry about weeks ahead, just get your X for the day. (Or maybe it's a ! or emoticon, whatever). 45 days creates a new habit. You'll probably actually looking forward to siting, rather than just trying to fit it in.

After that 45 days happens -- protect your practice. Make sure you arrange your life/day, so that you can keep it up.

The first sign of progress shouldn't be overlooked: it's the fact that you CAN sit everyday. If you do that, then you are actually a meditator --- something that is maybe only 1/100th or 1/1000th or 1/10,000th of the people in the world can say. You have made it into a very elite club! That's progress, no shit! So make sure you give yourself credit for that accomplishment.

The second sign is that >other people< start noticing a difference in you. Chances are you won't even notice and, if asked, you would say, I'm just sitting and having crappy sits and kinda working my way through TMI but I'm not very far... but other people will notice you are waking up out of you usual patterns. That's the deep changes that happen.

The third sign is more "mapable" progress, but then you fact the next biggest problem and it is a killer --- you wind up "chasing the map", trying to make the experience in the next stage happen. You can't reach a stage and you have huge doubts about making progress in this lifetime. You try to make it happen and you can't and you just want to give up. That whole attitude is exactly wrong. The point is to >fully experience the stage you are in< and when you can successfully do that, then the next stage opens up. It's like walking up steps, you need to move your whole body weight onto a step... and then it is natural to take the next step. 

By now you'll realize that even the maps themselves aren't the point. The point is consistent practice, you do that and things happen. You have confidence that one way or another, things will work out and you'll continue making progresss.

Usually during this killer stage you'll want to reach out to teachers and get some help. They will help you remember to just keep it simple and return to "I'll just make sure I practice today" -- then you'll make progress. Practice can kind of go off on a tangent, but if you have senior students/teachers/spiritual friends, you'll find your way back and make progress all the way to awakening.

Hope that helps!

RE: How do you even know you're progressing when you just start out?
Answer
2/25/17 10:07 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Great stuff as usual shargrol.

To OP, and myself, I had a nice "DUH" moment yesterday where I re-read the five Hindrances and there it was, number five -

DOUBT.

Doubt is called out explicitly as a hindrance to practice.  For some reason, seeing it as a numbered item on a list helps me "commoditize it" as a thing and less of a worldview.  I take that to mean that any energy or credence I give to doubt is actively hindering my progress.  I may HAVE doubt, but the best thing I can do for myself w/doubt is just not participate in it.

Yeah, that post helped me alot shargrol. I was making so much headway before in my practise and then being set back to the beginning was frustrating but I guess the whole point of meditation is to maintain a consistent,daily practise no matter what doubts you may have.

I am not saying that my brain kicks into gamma frequency.

Neuroscience research states so. Concentration meditation leads from beta to theta and alpha.

Awareness such as mindful breathing leads from beta to gamma where insight occurs. 

YouTube "meditation retreat - meditation or self-hypnosis"

After you watch the video you will think twice about concentrating your nostril.

Deepankar:
I've recently come back to meditation after it 'got rid' of my obsessive-compulsive tendencies,where I began to become lazy and skip it, with a new purer motivation.

I'm following Culadasa's 'The Mind Illuminated' and after my period of laziness I've basically been set back to stage 2. I've been building my routine back up but I can barely do anything. I feel like I'm making zero progress in every single session. Obviously, I shouldn't compare myself to others but it would be nice to know if there is a plateau at the start of the path, where there is a feeling that you're not getting anywhere.

Also, as a sidenote, Does having your eyes open/closed matter at all?

How consistently and how often are you really practicing?

I too had a similar period a laziness once (or rather lots of traveling and partying) and it took me spending 3 consecutive weeks on personal retreat (meditating 5+ hours a day), including one week alone in the woods by myself to get past level 2. 

RE: How do you even know you're progressing when you just start out?
Answer
2/25/17 9:11 PM as a reply to Jinxed P.
Since I've only just started back up again, I've been doing about 25 minutes per day, to ease myself into it,and then will build up to 1-2 hours of normal sitting practise, along with additional walking/metta meditation of about 30 minutes each.

Practising for 5+ hours for 3 weeks seems pretty insane just to get past stage 2, does a period of laziness really set you that far back on the path?

Deepankar:
Since I've only just started back up again, I've been doing about 25 minutes per day, to ease myself into it,and then will build up to 1-2 hours of normal sitting practise, along with additional walking/metta meditation of about 30 minutes each.

Practising for 5+ hours for 3 weeks seems pretty insane just to get past stage 2, does a period of laziness really set you that far back on the path?

I'm not naturally talented in the concentration states (diagnosed with ADHD when young), so I generally have to put in a lot more effort than what others here report. It would be impossible for me to ever get past level 2 only meditating 25 minutes a day. In fact, I know this, because that's about how often I meditated for 6-7 years and never got past level 2. I'm sure you will make faster progress.

RE: How do you even know you're progressing when you just start out?
Answer
5/30/17 1:32 PM as a reply to Simon Liu.
Simon Liu:
I did Culadasa way for few sessions then switched to anapanasati exactly as described in the sutta. It has been great for me.

I breath mindfully without focus on the nose or abdomen. No focus just mindfully aware of breathing for the entire breath staying with the breathe.

After few minutes I begin breathing mindfully with sensitivity to my body. When I inhale I feel the entire body. When I exhale I relax the whole body with it, like you do in yoga nidra.

I intentionally choose mindful breathing and stay aware of whatever experience I can experience.

This kicks the mind into gamma brain which leads into insight.

Concentration meditation leads into self hypnosis.

Relaxed awareness leads into tranquil mind which is concentrated mind, but concentration meditation doesn't lead into concentrated mind.

All been verified by science.

I was actually thinking this same thing also in regards to Metta Meditation. 

It seems to be that when one bypasses consciousness and gains access to their unconsciousness which is amenable one can give their mind instructions which it carries out. To me, that is an extremely scary thought :/  

Is that what is happening when one practices samatha? Bypassing consciousness and accessing unconscious (self hynosis) ? Is the mind really that easily programmed?

I should point out that I plan on practicing meditation again, lol. I stopped doing it previously when i heard about the dangers of it but I cant help to be drawn back to it and the positives it may produce. 

Hi Depanker,

In my experience using TMI, the meditation shouldn't really 'feel' different until you are well into stage 4/5. It can be hard to feel like you are making progress in the early stages because your meditation should be mainly focused on trying to overcome the one phenomenon throughout (forgetting/gross distraction). It is only the degree to which distraction manifests that should shift throughout stages 2-4. As a result, no noticbly different 'experiences' happen during these stages and you may feel like you are plateauing.

Nonetheless you are still progressing. The pendulum of your attention is probably staying on the breath longer and longer each sit. It's hard to notice though. Afterall, let's say your attention is staying on the breath 30 seconds longer in total each sit, that isn't something that will be obviously apparent.